Emmy-nominated “Orange Is The New Black” actress, transgender activist and TIME cover star Laverne Cox can now add “documentary crew” to her laundry list of accomplishments. As the narrator for the MTV/LOGO documentary, “The T Word,” Laverne provides context to a story about seven young trans people who talk about their varied experiences in school, in love and in their daily lives. Considering that Laverne appears as the film’s moderator, expanding on proper pronouns to use to refer to trans people and explaining other trans concepts, this project may be one of Laverne’s most important pieces of work.
“We live in a world where people are often judged for being different,” she says in the trailer. “But, this is a celebration of those differences, as well as how we’re the same.”
The documentary follows Ari, an 18-year-old high school graduate, Avery, a 20-year-old woman who opens up about dating in New York City, Daniella, a 20-year-old anti-transgender violence activist, Kye, the first Division One transgender basketball player, L’lerret, a student attending college in New Orleans, Shane, a 20-year-old college student living with his girlfriend, and Zoey, a 12-year-old girl who transferred out of her California school, with her parents’ support, because administrators didn’t acknowledge her as a girl.
In an interview with Jezebel, Laverne says she hopes the doc will expose mainstream audiences to trans individuals’ experiences. “Ninety percent of Americans report not knowing someone who is transgender,” she said, “and I think media representations really help that out a lot because you can get to ‘know’ trans people through the media. That’s why it’s so important that in the media we tell trans stories in a way that is fully humanizing, that doesn’t objectify them or just focus on bodies—but stories that focus on a whole human being.”
“The T Word” was in development for nine years. Laverne said that she and production partner Eric Miclette had been pitching different projects to networks to have trans stories on television. She first wanted to focus on trans women in New York, but the final project on MTV expands to experiences outside of the City. “MTV was ready,” Laverne said.
The public must be ready to hear stories from trans individuals, even though it hasn’t been so supportive of the community in the past. Laverne and fellow trans activist Janet Mock both have had their experience in the media of TV hosts improperly referring to them as a female who used to be male or inappropriately inquiring about their genitals. Any platform that will provide insightful information on addressing trans issues the right way, let alone how to acknowledge trans people, is a win. Kudos to Laverne for helping the development of this piece.
“The T Word” airs tonight on MTV at 7 pm EST. Will you tune in, beauties?